I honestly don’t know if there was a time when I didn’t deal with depression. When I was a kid, my family nicknamed me Eeyore as I was always so down in the dumps. As I got older, I still battled with this monkey on my back and life didn’t make things easier. My parents got divorced and it was an ugly situation, I wasn’t very popular in school and was often made fun of, and I never really connected with people so making friends was a struggle.
Even as an adult, the battle raged on. There were some legitimate situations that popped up in my life which anyone would get depressed by; My mother passed away when I was twenty and a week later the family dog was run over by a car. Don’t you love how bad things can never just happen on their own? They always need to bring a friend! Anyone would battle with depression during times like this, but for me, it was a battle that I had been dealing with long before these terrible events.
Through all of this tragedy and woe, there was something that managed to keep my head afloat. Something that allowed me to escape into another world for a while and get outside my own head. This thing, of course, was video games.
It’s those moments where the only thing that can keep me from falling down the dark well is Mario or Sonic. I like to imagine their hands reaching out to catch me as I’m falling, and without hesitation I grab on.
Video games often get discredited as being a form of escapism for a generation who just can’t deal with growing up, people suffering from arrested development who turn to their Marios and Sonics to get away from the reality of things in front of them. I would say though, that many of us need exactly that. My depression isn’t a constant beast. Oh no, it bursts like a volcano without a moment’s notice. It strikes without warning to cloud over my sunny day.
It’s those moments where the only thing that can keep me from falling down the dark well is Mario or Sonic. I like to imagine their hands reaching out to catch me as I’m falling, and without hesitation I grab on. When what you’re facing is irrational and dark, having that escapist light to lift you up can be exactly what you need.
I’d like to talk about two games that have recently saved me from myself (roll credits). Those games are Nier Automata and I Am Setsuna. I’ve done reviews on both of them already so feel free to check those out (I swear this isn’t a plug). These two games are very different from one another but both managed to calm the beast and lull it back to sleep. I’d like to start with Nier Automata as it had the largest impact on me.
Nier Automata captured me in a way that other games during that time failed to do. I was hooked by the first 10 minutes of the game. The music, atmosphere, and the sort of dull grays all enchanted me. The first time I played the game I probably sat up for four or five hours on a work night (what sin!) just plugging away at the story. I was so bewitched by the game that I managed to beat the entire thing in just a week. I wish I could say that was the only thing going on during that time, but I was struggling with a good deal of mania. I would have really high highs (which is weird to write but the only way to put it) and low lows. I would spend all day struggling to stay stable or as I like to say, on the level (a reference to the band The Raconteurs) and nothing seemed to solve the problem. However, when I started playing Nier, all the pieces just fell into place. I was no longer worried about my mental state but instead what was going to happen to 2B and 9S. Their world became my own for a few hours each night and it allowed me to take a break from myself.
I have since gone back and played the game three times all the way through just to spend more time in that world. It only lasted for a short while, but during that time I found peace.
The next game I want to talk about is I am Setsuna. To set the stage a little, I started playing this game in winter, which is classically a difficult season for those with depression. It’s like the whole world feels just a little bit more bleak and is pushing you towards the dark side of the pendulum. I don’t know why, and likely there isn’t a reason, but this particular winter was a tough one. Everyday I felt like I struggled just to stay afloat in my own mind.
I came upon I am Setsuna almost by accident. I was sitting there on my Playstation 4, not really knowing what to play (and I’ll be honest, not really interested in anything I had) when I saw it pop up on the PS plus menu, on discount. I checked it out and the references to Chrono Trigger or other classic RPGs raised my eyebrows in the best possible way. I bought it thinking, “I’ll probably play this for an hour or two, get bored and never play it again.”
This turned out to be one of the biggest lies of the winter as I was quickly drawn in to the game. I’ll be the first to admit the game isn’t revolutionary. It doesn’t push the boundaries of RPGs. It isn’t the second coming of Chrono Trigger that I think many people were hoping for. What it does have though, is Setsuna. Possibly one of my favorite video game characters ever.
Now, to express why she is so amazing, I need to spoil some of the story, so just be ready for that. The basic premise is that Setsuna is going to sacrifice herself in a far away land so her people will be safe. This alone isn’t very mesmerizing but it’s the way the character carries herself through the whole experience that is so compelling. Even though she has this bleak ending always looming overhead, she's willing to help others and even stays positive. Right until the end of the game Setsuna is a beacon that inspires the rest of the party to move forward.
It’s this positivity in darkness that really inspired me. It lifted me up out of the depression I was going through and just like Nier Automata, kept me afloat. I am Setsuna may not have been the best game I’ve ever played, but it played a significant role in my life and that’s why it is so important to me.
I think it’s because of how helpful video games have been for me that I cherish them so much. I’ll always have fond memories of playing through Crash Bandicoot late into the night, ignoring the man in black behind me. It's a special relationship that I would consider to be a deep friendship. When I was lonely, it was video games that helped make me feel connected to something. I would dream that the characters I created in Dragon Warrior 3 would come to my aid and help fight back the darkness that was trying to impede upon my mind. Sometimes they were successful and the light once again shined through, and other times they were not. That’s okay though, because even if I did fall into the void, there was always another game later on that could pull me back out again.
Writers note: I don’t want this to come across that video games are a solution to mental issues. If you’re struggling with something you should definitely seek assistance. Whether that be from doctors, friends, pets, etc you should never have to fight such battles alone.
Second writers note: If you were looking for a video game review, don’t worry! I’ll be back to writing those out next week. Be excited as lately I have been playing and prepping to review a lot of dating sims! So, if that’s not your thing, um, still read them anyways?
Third writers note: You’re beautiful!